In Genesis 9:8-15,the first reading for the first Sunday of Lent (year B), we learn how God described the rainbow (his “bow in the sky”)as a covenant between God and all God’s creatures:
‘Here is the sign of the Covenant I make between myself and you and every living creature with you for all generations: I set my bow in the clouds and it shall be a sign of the Covenant between me and the earth. When I gather the clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the Covenant between myself and you and every living creature of every kind.
There is nothing in there to suggest that the Covenant applies only to opposite – sex couples in church – approved marriages. It is fitting, then, that in this image of the ark by Paul Richmond, the homophobes and bigots opposed to inclusion and equality are left to drown in the flood waters.
Kittredge Cherry describes the scene at “Jesus in Love Blog”:
Happy gay and lesbian animal couples mingle under the rainbow with today’s LGBT celebrities in “Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise,” a painting by Ohio artist Paul Richmond. Same-sex pairings of cuddling elephants, giraffes, penguins, chimps, and flamingos cuddle on board his gay version of Noah’s ark. Human couples include Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, Elton John and David Furnish, and Rosie O’Donnell and Kelli Carpenter.
Elsewhere on Richmond’s queer cruise ship, Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie come out of the closet to watch from a porthole as a “God hates fags” sign sinks beneath the waves, along with opponents of LGBT rights such as Ann Coulter, Ken Starr, Pat Boone, Fred Phelps, and even Larry Craig with his toilet!
But not everything in the lgbt world is as rosy as a rainbow cruise. In the Gospel reading, Mark 1:12-15, we read of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, where he is tempted by Satan.
Wilderness is a powerful image. It can be deliberately chosen, as it was by Jesus and later by some of the early Church fathers, as suitable for reflection and spiritual purification – or it can be a place of forced exclusion, for those driven away from the wider society. Many LGBT Christians have felt themselves in the “wilderness” outside the Church, either explicitly told they are not welcome, or in self-imposed exile from a hostile institution. The danger is, that in that wilderness, we may be more than usually susceptible to dangerous temptations: of sexual licence, or of excessive indulgence and substance abuse.
The key to “discerning he good” in the face of temptation is not simply to submit to the rules of a disordered claim that same – sex love and relationships are intrinsically evil, but to trust in the guidance of (well – formed) conscience. In the second reading for today, Peter draws a link between the flood, baptism – and conscience:
That water is a type of the baptism which saves you now, and which is not the washing off of physical dirt but a pledge made to God from a good conscience
1 Peter 3:18-22
That conscience is key to striking a sound balance in healthy, life- giving relationships between the extremes of harmful licence and self- indulgence on one hand, and excessive repression on the other.